Because of the minerals and natural chemicals dissolved in water, it’s an excellent conductor for electricity. That’s why hair dryers have huge tags on them warning consumers about electric shock and why some people won’t shower during a thunderstorm. However, water is also used to create energy. Hydropower plants harness the force of water to run their machinery and generate energy.
Many other kinds of power plants boil water and use steam to create electricity. After the water is heated, large amounts of cool water are used to reduce the temperature so the process can start over again. Water is technically a renewable resource. However, much of the water that humans use goes back into the water cycle polluted by waste. By reclaiming water, engineers can increase the amount of clean water available for energy production and the environment.
What Is Water Reclamation?
Through a variety of processes, water treatment plants are able to collect and purify wastewater. Wastewater is used water that comes from people’s taps, showers, and toilets, as well as from corporate and industrial businesses. This water can be contaminated with human waste, soap, and food scraps.
Water treatment plants use a combination of mechanical, natural, and chemical processes to disinfect previously used water so it’s safe to return to the environment. As a final step in the process, these treatment plants restore the natural balance of oxygen and nitrogen found in clean water.
After it’s purified, reclaimed water is used to run electric power plants, water crops, and clean cities. However, an increasing number of cities are starting to send reclaimed water back into homes and businesses. This saves money and improves water security for areas prone to drought.
Although water treatment plants are very successful at purifying wastewater, many people are disgusted at the thought of reusing previously dirty water. It’s important to remember that the water cycle naturally recycles the water that sustains life. By filtering and reusing more wastewater, treatment plants can actually improve the quality of water in our environment.
Why Water Reclamation Matters
Changes in climate and average temperatures are leading to extended periods of drought and water shortages in dry areas of the world. For example, the southwestern United States has been experiencing increasingly worse droughts over the last 100 years. Because so much energy production depends on steam, water shortages could eventually limit the amount of energy coming from power plants.
However, limited electricity could also affect the quality and accessibility of water in urban areas. That’s because treating and transporting water in and out of businesses and people’s homes takes massive amounts of energy. Moving water against gravity and across long distances increases these energy costs.
Reclaimed water is a good solution for both of these problems. It recycles water so that power plants can run continuously without taxing their local water supplies. After reclaimed water is used to generate electricity, some of that power can then be redirected to transport, treat, and reclaim the water running the plant.
Using reclaimed water is especially important in places that experience dry conditions and water scarcity. Instead of draining underground aquifers, water-dependent industries like agriculture and power generation can leverage reclaimed water to carry them through droughts. Reclaiming used water also limits the amount of liquid being displaced from the environment.
Reclaiming Energy With Water Purification
Changing the community’s perspectives on reclaimed water is key to achieving sustainable energy production. Water treatment plants can clean and sterilize reclaimed water so it’s suitable for agriculture, energy production, and even residential use as drinking water.
Reclaimed water also lessens the burden of power plants on the environment and secures energy generation during times of drought. If fossil fuel plants are replaced by renewable sources of energy, reclaimed water can be released back into the environment without harming wildlife.
Water reclamation is an integral part of energy generation in the future. With droughts on the rise, reclaimed water can help urban areas secure access to both clean water and unlimited energy generation.
Jane is the Editor-in-Chief of Environment.co and an environmental writer covering green technology, sustainability and environmental news.